Coming off two consecutive losses away from Crisler, the Michigan women’s basketball team needed a game where they could re-focus on the things they are good at, and remind themselves how good things feel when they’re running at all cylinders.
With the 6-6 Penn State Lady Lions in town for a New Year’s Eve matinee, the Wolverines got that opportunity. In front of a season-best crowd of 5,012, Michigan cruised to an 82-48 win and evened their conference record at 1-1.
It took a few minutes for each team to settle into the game, with Michigan scoring the first points over 90 seconds into the game. After an early back-and-forth, Penn State tied the score at 7 just under halfway through the first. It would be the last time the Lions were in striking distance.
Michigan spent the rest of the first quarter on a 16-5 run, with Naz Hillmon contributing 6 points and Amy Dilk another 5. Penn State cut the lead to 9 with 7:56 left in the second quarter, and one minute later Hailey Brown hit a three-pointer and the double-digit lead became permanent.
Everyone had a chance to shine, and the game ended with four starters scoring in double digits. Kayla Robbins got hot early, and Brown hit two straight threes to end the Lions’ hope of getting back in the game. Amy Dilk ended the game at 13-8-8, and hit a falling hook shot to get Michigan its first 30-point lead. While Akienreh Johnson was the only starter who scored single digits, her 8 included a crucial three-pointer, and she added five assists.
The bench was given plenty of time to showcase their own talents, and Michelle Sidor took her opportunity. Sidor got her first minutes in the fourth quarter and hit two straight threes in her first minute on the court. She added another late to end with 9 points. Emily Kiser and Izabel Varejao added 6 points each. Michigan’s 50.1 percent shooting was their fourth best mark of the season, and a significant improvement from the 39.3 percent effort in their Big Ten opener against Maryland.
Michigan’s brutal schedule stretch does not let up. Michigan welcomes rival Michigan State to Crisler Arena on Sunday. While both teams have fallen out of the rankings, both are still in position to make the NCAA Tournament, and the winner might find themselves ranked again come Monday. It should be one of the best Crisler crowds all season, and they’re already beginning to sell upper deck tickets. They’ll then play at Ohio State and host Maryland. If Michigan can go 2-1 in this run of huge games, they’ll be in great shape for a Big Ten Tournament double bye, and can begin to build their case for a decent seed come March.